Danes want to replace opt-out with an ‘opt-in’
Summary 81 percent of the population believes that Denmark should continue to be a part of the EU’s cooperation to fight organised crime, which is being carried out by Europol. But because of the country’s decision to opt-out of the EU’s Justice and Home Affairs legislation, Denmark will be forced to leave this cooperation by 2015 unless the opt-out is abolished or another opportunity for cooperation is found.
The Danes’ massive support for the cooperation was revealed through a new opinion poll conducted by YouGov on behalf of Think Tank EUROPA among a selection of 1,005 Danish representatives aged between 18-74 years.
The poll also shows that 60 percent believe that Denmark and the rest of the EU should have common rules on consumer protection and data security, and that 57 percent want the EU member states to establish a common prosecution authority to combat financial crime. Denmark is excluded from these areas due to the opt-out.
Think Tank EUROPA’s study reveals a paradox in public attitudes towards judicial cooperation in the EU. The respondents showed a lot of support when asked about specific areas of cooperation, but showed scepticism and doubt when it comes to the opt-out in general.
The new poll indicates that this scepticism and doubt is caused by concerns about losing sovereignty. A combination of these reservations and the Danes’ reluctance to have common EU rules for immigration means that the majority of Danes are still against abolishing the opt-out completely in favour of full cooperation in EU legislation.
However, the Lisbon Treaty from 2009 gives Denmark the power to introduce a so-called ‘opt-in’ in certain areas of legislation. This means that Denmark can choose to come in and out of the cooperation on a case-by-case basis. And when given the prospect of this type of opt-in, Danes view the connection a lot differently.
Think Tank EUROPA’s new poll shows that only 28 percent of the population wants to keep the Danish opt-out if the alternative is this type of opt-in. 51 percent want either the opt-in or full abolishment of the current opt-out. In fact, the pattern among all parties – except the Danish People’s Party (Dansk Folkeparti) – is that the majority of their voters are for the alternative opt-in.
- The government can win a referendum on abolishing the opt-out. This requires Denmark to introduce a so-called ‘opt-in’, which was made possible by the Lisbon Treaty from 2009, whereby the Parliament can choose to come in and out of the EU’s judicial cooperation on a case-by-case basis. 51 percent of Danes want this opt-in or a full abolishment of the current opt-out, as opposed to the 28 percent who want to keep the current opt-out. More than one in five are in doubt.
- If the parties do not support the referendum on introducing an opt-in, it will put them on a collision course with their constituents. With the exception of the Danish People’s Party, the majority of voters from all parties would abolish the opt-out if it were replaced with an opt-in.
- The Danes seem to have paradoxical views on the opt-out. An overwhelming majority is against a full abolition of the opt-out, but at the same time a significant majority wants Denmark to participate in various aspects of the EU’s judicial cooperation. For example, 81 percent of Danes want to be part of the EU cooperation to combat organised crime, which takes place in Europol, and which Denmark will be excluded from in 2015 as a consequence of the opt-out.
- This is explained by the combination of a distinct desire to maintain Danish autonomy and a reluctance to have common EU rules for immigration. Think Tank EUROPA’s poll shows that the alternative opt-in could be seen as a customised solution to accommodate the wish for Denmark to actively participate in most of the EU’s legislative cooperation, whilst following an independent foreign policy.
- The outcome of a referendum on opt-out will depend on whether the parties can present voters a clear plan on how they intend to make use of the opt-in. Therefore, before a referendum takes place a broad majority in the Danish Parliament should enter into a European political agreement that clearly indicates which parts of the legislative cooperation Denmark would join if it were to opt-in. The voters are ready to become full members of the EU in virtually all areas of legislation, but there are indications that they want to maintain autonomy over the area of immigration policy. The opt-in is more likely to gain support from the majority of voters if this concern taken into account.